Remote work can be incredibly beneficial to companies for a number of reasons. For starters, not needing extensive office space for employees can drastically reduce overhead costs. Many employees who have worked from home also report feeling happier and more productive.
However, remote work still comes with challenges to overcome. A particularly difficult task for managers is to guide a remote team. With each member working from a separate location, it can be hard to make them feel like a cohesive team. This becomes increasingly difficult when you take into account varying schedules, regions, and even time zones.
The more cohesive your remote team is, the more efficient it will be and the more enjoyable it will be to oversee them. To help build digital camaraderie and get the best out of every remote employee, give some of these tips a try:
Implement Project Management Software
There’s a powerful tool at your disposal that can completely transform your remote team. Project management software has been a lifesaver for remote teams for years and years. They picked up in usage considerably during the worst months of Covid-19 when measures to slow the pandemic kept many workers at home. Even though life has mostly returned to normal, this software can still be extremely useful.
There are dozens of viable project management software programs you can try out. Each one focuses on different aspects of project management, so you can find the program that addresses your weaknesses the best. Some programs might focus on communication, while others focus their attention on organization, for example.
Consider using a free trial of a few different options and then asking your team how the programs felt. Use their feedback plus your own observations to make your final decision. This will generally lead to better results than just choosing a project management software and hoping it works.
Encourage Small Talk
While chat rooms, through things such as project management software, are primarily for coordinating on projects, they can be used for much more. You shouldn’t discourage small talk from occurring in team chats. In fact, this is something you might consider encouraging instead.
When working remotely, it’s difficult for coworkers to feel connected to one another. There are no opportunities for team luncheons or water cooler talk. However, teammates can send messages sharing jokes and stories that help them build relationships. Your initial thought might be to tell them to get back to work, but then you would be disrupting some valuable team bonding.
In some project management software programs, such as Slack, you can even create chat rooms that are specifically for small talk. This way, a casual conversation between coworkers can still occur without flooding out the productivity occurring in your marketing and sales channels. You can even send daily or weekly prompts for people to respond to, like asking them to share their favorite song or something they did over the weekend.
Share a Vision
When working from home, you don’t share as much in common with your coworkers. You can’t talk about your commute, the workspace, or even community events, as everyone can live all over the world. You need to find something that unites your remote team in a common cause that gets them to work together more fervently.
Most companies have a stated vision, but few employees actually know what it is. Try to change that, or come up with a vision that is applicable specifically to your team. Incorporate the vision into your meeting plans and newsletters and any other communication you have with the team.
Uniting your remote team is easy when the vision is clear. Remote workers that are working together to improve the quality of life of the elderly, for example, have a common goal and interest that helps them work together. They can set aside their differences to work together since their vision is the same.
Get Individual Feedback
The employees you oversee will have an inside look at what it’s like to work within a remote team. Their feedback can be incredibly valuable to you as a manager remoting this team. You should regularly elicit their feedback to find ways to improve your management and the team’s cohesion.
One of the better ways to get feedback is to approach each employee individually. Ensure them that responses can be kept anonymous and they won’t be punished for sharing their thoughts. This way, you can get honest feedback from each team member about how things are going and what they would like to see changed.
You can use survey forms to gather recorded responses, or you can have individual video calls set up with each employee. The latter is much more personal and has its own strengths and weaknesses to consider. You can even use a combination if you feel like certain employees would respond better to one method over the other. Be sure to use this feedback, as information divulged is done under the assumption that you’re using it to make improvements. If you gather feedback and do nothing with it, good luck trying to gather responses next time around.
… to a point. Perhaps the single greatest benefit to working from is that your daily schedule is so much more flexible. Remote workers can more easily fit in exercise, hobbies, and personal responsibilities into their schedule. Embrace that flexibility, and your employees will be much happier with their working arrangements. However, too much flexibility can get out of hand and become problematic if left unchecked.
You should have a few blocks of time set aside where you expect the entire team to be online simultaneously. This ensures that there’s always a time when meetings can be scheduled, and communication can occur. Trying to coordinate ever-changing schedules would otherwise be impossible.
As long as you have this designated time set aside, team operations should run smoothly. Problems arise when you’re dealing with endless email chains trying to get everyone to agree on a time that works for them. Even if you only require one hour of simultaneous work time, it will help.
Get Yourself Involved
A common mistake managers make is alienating themselves from the team they oversee. They don’t participate in team activities and seem more like a puppet master than one of the gang. When overseeing a remote team, this is an even greater challenge. You really have to go out of your way to get involved and incorporate yourself into your team.
You are a part of the team, after all. If you want the group as a whole to feel cohesive, get yourself in there! Take the initiative to get to know each team member on a personal level. Help new team members feel included in group chats and video calls. Your example and participation will mean a lot to the group and have a monumental impact on team bonding.
As is the case with most aspects of management, remember to find the happy medium with everything you do. Don’t send messages to employees to the point that you become overbearing. There is such a thing as being too involved.
The hardest part is getting your team to collaborate effectively while working remotely. Once you get them in a spot where they can operate almost autonomously, life gets a lot easier. You’ll see just how powerful a remote team can be when everyone is on the same page. Keeping them on the same page will be a much smaller task to undertake.
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